Indigenous and immigrant fashion designers launch from the VFW catwalk | Fashion

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Seeking a new life and career, South African immigrant Larainne Kaplan arrived in Vancouver in 2003 with two garbage bags full of clothing samples made by a family charity near her old home in Cape Town.

“I wanted to dedicate myself to having a fashion business with a strong social responsibility component,” said Kaplan, who was transitioning from a 15-year career as a social worker in South Africa.

“And then I met him and he helped me get my business off the ground,” Kaplan said, pointing to Jamal Abdourahman, the founder of Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW), in an interview with New Canadian Media.

Today, Kaplan heads Vancouver-based LK Collections, a dynamic multi-brand wholesale fashion agency and import company representing international and local design collections throughout Western Canada.

After completing his education at the London College of Fashion, Taiwanese-Canadian Alex S. Yu launched his brand at the September 2014 edition of Vancouver Fashion Week.

Since then and after 12 VFW shows, his collections have been presented in fashion shows around the world while his designs have dressed celebrities, including Canadian-American actress Sandra Oh and Taiwanese singer Miu Zhu.

For Metis designer Jade Tetrault, this week’s VFW Fall/Winter 2022 show provides a behind-the-scenes experience.

“It’s a great place to gain experience in fashion design,” said Tetrault, who hopes her indigenous-inspired ‘Arrowhead’ dress will be featured in the next VFW show.

Kaplan, Yu and Tetrault are among dozens of new Canadian and indigenous designers who, over the past two decades, have launched and launched their careers from the VFW runway, now the second largest Fashion Week in North America. after the one in New York.

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“At Vancouver Fashion Week, diversity is really our greatest strength,” said Abdourahman, who came to Toronto in 1990 as a refugee from Djibouti, a small country in the Horn of Africa.

In addition to being the longest-running show of its kind, Abdourahman and his Global Fashion Collective (GFC) team host special events that run in conjunction with New York Fashion Week, Tokyo Fashion Week and Tokyo Fashion Week. Paris fashion. VFW also has a special children’s fashion event.

“In recent years, we have received more and more inquiries from international fashion students, new immigrants and First Nations designers,” said Abdourahman.

This year’s presenters include Inuit designer Martha Kyak and Sri Lankan-Canadian Sujitha Shivajothi, who has a gender-inclusive design label.

Vancouver mayoral candidate Mark Marissen, a long-time VFW fan, hopes the event will continue to grow and provide opportunities for aspiring fashion designers.

“It is a fantastic event that has already put our city in the global fashion world and if I am chosen, I hope it will be a key event for Vancouver,” he said.

According to a market entry report prepared for the European Union fashion industry, global apparel retail sales in Canada reached $35.27 billion in 2019.

The report highlighted Vancouver Fashion Week as one of the city’s most popular events.

“As home to people from many different backgrounds, especially East Asians, Vancouver is the center of fashion and style,” the report says.

“VFW events showcase designs from established and emerging fashion brands and is a focal point for local fashion startups that have flourished in recent years,” Alex Martyniak, CEO of the European Chamber of Commerce in West Canada. , he told NCM.

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According to, an accredited immigration agency, Vancouver is the top Canadian city to immigrate as a fashion designer.

“You can expect to earn between $63,555 and $109,507 per year,” the agency said in a report last August.

Service Canada has listed fashion designers in the National Occupational Classification Code 5243 for immigration purposes.

WorkSafe BC estimates that job openings in this category will increase by nearly 52.7 percent over the next decade.

The Canada Job Bank estimates that between now and 2028, 9,300 new job seekers, including school dropouts and new immigrants, are expected to fill jobs in this sector.


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